Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 34

In the thirty-fourth chapter of The Amber Spyglass, Mary has a revelation about why Dust seems to be flowing so rapidly out of the mulefa universe. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Amber Spyglass.


This is a very brief chapter, but it’s not short on a huge reveal and some fascinating introspection on the part of Dr. Mary Malone. At heart, this chapter provides one of my favorite messages from Philip Pullman, that life without God not only has meaning, but urgency. It’s something that took me a long time to figure out myself. (Seriously, I really could have used this trilogy when I was a confused Christian teenager.)

Unable to sleep, Mary decides to head back to her tree to observe Dust through the amber spyglass to see if she can figure out why it seems to be pouring so quickly out of this world. It’s during this that she takes some time to reflect more on what she shared with Will and Lyra, and I remember going through the same thing myself. She observes the steady moving clouds and she feels that they have a purpose. And it’s a purpose she doesn’t fit in with herself:

This was the very thing she’d told Will about when he asked if she missed God: it was the sense that the whole universe was alive, and that everything was connected to everything else by threads of meaning. When she’d been a Christian, she had felt connected, too; but when she left the Church, she felt loose and free and light, in a universe without purpose.

In my case, as I explained yesterday, I never felt anything but that, so when I saw other people or creatures in this world with a sense of purpose, it was almost jealousy on my part. I wanted that sensation. (I’m going to recommend y’all listen to The Weakerthans’ “Utilities” for a song that touches deeply on this very idea. Fair warning: it is both an amazing song and depressing as hell.)

I’m not sure I understand if there’s a deeper meaning to it, but before Mary can make it to her tree, it breaks and topples to the ground. Are the trees dying now that Dust is leaking from the world? Heartbroken and in despair, it’s when she pulls out the amber spyglass that suddenly everything comes together for her. Dust is indeed leaking from this world, but she realizes it’s probably leaking from all worlds. Will had told her that the subtle knife could cut holes in worlds, and they all knew that some windows had been left open. If the subtle knife had been around for three hundred years, wouldn’t it stand to reason that over the last three centuries, more and more windows were left open?

She doesn’t know it, but there’s also that giant abyss that was opened by the bomb sent to kill Lyra. Could that also be contributing to the recent rush of Dust? What I can’t seem to figure out is the fact that some power is drawing the Dust away, threatening to end all conscious life. Hell, so much so that THE CLOUDS ARE LITERALLY TRYING TO STOP THE DUST FROM LEAVING. Apparently matter has a consciousness? I mean, that’s pretty damn cool, if you ask me. For Mary, it’s a moment of joyous epiphany:

Matter loved Dust. It didn’t want to see it go. That was the meaning of this night, and it was Mary’s meaning, too.

Had she thought there was no meaning in life, no purpose, when God had gone? Yes, she had thought that.

“Well, there is now,” she said aloud, and again, louder: “There is now!”

Maybe this was written in anticipation of the very idea that there is no purpose in life without God, but it fits because the epiphany belongs to mary. She is the one is the one who comes discover what her life means, and it’s one of many reasons why she’s one of the best literary women I’ve ever come across.

Yet, can Pullman allow us joy in this moment? SURELY HE HAS TO RUIN IT, RIGHT? I jest, but the ending to chapter thirty-four is GODDAMN CREEPY. On her way back to share her realization with Will and Lyra, she spots a lone tualapi coming out of the tide, which is strange due to the fact that these creatures always travel in a flock.

And it was coming apart…No, something was getting off its back.

The something was a man.

FFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUU FATHER GOMEZ FOUND THEM. GODDAMN IT. This is awful. I was worried that this would be the confrontation hinted at many chapters ago. He’s carrying a rifle and Mary is left watching from a distance, using the amber spyglass to see where he is, and feeling utterly helpless. He has a gun. She has nothing. But she avoids calling out or notifying the man that she exists in fear of revealing where Will or Lyra are.

Strangely, he enters her mulefa house and leaves just a minute or so later, seemingly confused by something. He sits upon the tualapi and disappears from sight.

So what the hell is he doing? Did he plant something? Was he going to kill Mary? I AM CONFUSED.


There’s a spiffy new banner this week (HOW COLORFUL), and here’s the link to the full image it is cropped from. Additionally, this week’s spoiler thread on BridgeToTheStars is up!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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71 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 34

  1. Ryan Lohner says:

    And we move a step closer to discovering what Mary's "temptation" of Lyra will be. The serpent will tempt Eve, but toward something that is ultimately a good thing, just like the gaining of knowledge.

    • Jenny_M says:

      I thought the temptation was in the last chapter, when Lyra had the great awakening inside of her body – IE the part that was censored in the American edition of the book? I always interpreted that to be the temptation, but feel free to rot13 me on other explanations!

      • chrisjpardo says:

        Lrf, V nterr, ohg vg qbrfa'g ernyyl cynl bhg hagvy gbzbeebj'f puncgre. V'z abg fher ng jung cbvag, jura V svefg ernq guvf obbx, gung nyy gur qbgf wbvarq hc. V guvax n srj bs hf jrer jbeevrq lrfgreqnl gung znlor Znex unqa'g znqr guvf pbaarpgvba lrg, nf ur qvqa'g ernyyl gnyx nobhg gur pbagrag bs gur puncgre.

        Abg fher vs guvf arrqrq gb or ebg13'q, fb V'ir qbar vg whfg va pnfr.

        • monkeybutter says:

          Fbeg bs. Gur grzcgngvba vgfrys jnf va gur ynfg puncgre, naq gur arkg bar vf jura gurl qrny jvgu vg.

          • chrisjpardo says:

            Bu V nterr 100%, ohg vs Znex unfa'g ernyvfrq guvf, V qba'g jnag gb gnxr gung zbzrag njnl sebz uvz! V'z fher gbzbeebj'f erivrj jvyy pynevsl guvf.

            • monkeybutter says:

              Lrf! V nterr! V guvax lbh zragvbarq lrfgreqnl gung vg'f n ybg pyrnere jung gur grzcgngvba vf va gur haprafberq irefvba bs Znemvcna, naq gbzbeebj'f puncgre ohvyqf ba gung. Vg'yy or rnfvre gb gnyx nobhg shyyl, va nal pnfr.

              • Zl guvaxvat vf gung Znel grzcgrq Ylen ynfg puncgre, ohg fur qbrfa'g fhpphzo hagvy yngre. Arkg puncgre? Jurarire fur tvirf Jvyy gur oreel.

                • monkeybutter says:

                  Lrnu. Vg'yy whfg or noyr gb gnyx nobhg jung gur grzcgngvba jnf jura jr frr ubj vg nssrpgf Ylen.

                • chrisjpardo says:

                  Lrc, arkg puncgre. Znel'f shysvyyrq ure ebyr nf gur frecrag (V jbaqre vs fur unq nal vqrn jung fur jnf qbvat; Jvyy jnf nfxvat ure dhrfgvbaf nobhg Tbq, Ylen nobhg gur oblf :)), ohg Ylen unfa'g tvira va gb grzcgngvba lrg.

                  V ungr gur jnl gung fbhaqf yvxr n onq guvat gb zr.

                  • xpanasonicyouthx says:

                    adkl fufue s beber avbnv vmccbbcsa uannd,wi nanasiwns sur a jnfru fnfua

                    • steph says:

                      mark! what are you doing in this thread! i rot13'd what you said and that was all gibberish!;)

                    • chrisjpardo says:

                      Haha, dammit Mark. That took me much longer than it should have…

                    • rumantic says:

                      What I find really funny about this is that at a glance it looks like English, as in, the shapes of the words are fairly similar and use pretty commonly used letters. (Something to do with the qwerty keyboard perhaps?) Whereas Rot13 always looks totally alien because the word shapes and letter ratios are so wrong.

                      [[Probably weird for noticing these things]]

                • evocativecomma says:

                  Ylen jnf nyernql grzcgrq. Gur arkg guvat gung unccraf va gur fgbel bs Trarfvf, nsgre Rir vf grzcgrq, vf gung fur gura gheaf nebhaq naq grzcgf Nqnz, juvpu vf jung unccraf arkg jvgu Ylen naq Jvyy.

    • evocativecomma says:

      Ner lbh whfg abj ernqvat gur obbx sbe gur svefg gvzr, be qvq lbh zvff gung gur grzcgngvba bs Ylen unf nyernql unccrarq?

    • Ryan Lohner says:

      Anyone else get the feeling Pullman came up with the term "Dust" just so he could use that quote?

      • @thelxiepia says:

        It wouldn't surprise me one bit.

      • trva says:

        idk, I think there are other quotes that contributed, such as "from dust to dust" or that god created Adam from dust. I think there are some other Milton quotes that involve dust. It just fits perfectly for a variety of reasons, although I'm sure that this quote definitely had an effect on the choice of word.

      • evocativecomma says:

        Pretty sure it has to do with the concept of all of us being made of dust, which is from the Bible (ironically), and not from Blake.

  2. Hanah_banana says:

    I really love this chapter, it's short but beautiful and you can just completely imagine it. Maybe it's just me, but there's something about being outside in a wide-open space in the night which is unbelievably wonderful. The air feels different and the world is quiet and I feel like I'm standing on the edge of infinity, like I can do anything and be anything because the world is here in front of me. So of maybe all of the chapters in all of these books, this is the one I can visualise most clearly.

    Plus, of course, Mary comes to her huge revelation, realising that just because you do not have God in your life it doesn't mean it has to be empty and meaningless. The world is full of beauty and consciousness, of love and intelligent thought and creativity and desire and happiness and you don't necessarily need some unknown creator to have made it for the world to feel like it has meaning. We give the world meaning ourselves, and all of the atoms which make up the sky and the clouds and the earth and the trees give meaning, and everything is beautiful and although sometimes things hurt, that's okay because that's what being alive is all about.

    Also Mark your mentioning of that song reminded me of one of my favourites, which is not entirely about having a sense of purpose, but sort of is. It's called 'Avenue of Hope' by i am kloot and it's also fantastically depressing, but also strangely beautiful and uplifting. It makes me feel like even though the world might be dark and empty, there is life ahead and around and if I keep on down my avenue of hope I will find out who I am and things will be alright. I may be utterly misinterpreting it of course, but it comforts me. And now I shall go and look up the song you recommended, because I am a masochist who loves fantastically depressing things.)

    • t09yavors says:

      Two of my favorite moments ever involve being outside late at night. Once I was biking in the rain (which is awesome on its own) at one in the morining and the streets were empty and I could just cruise. The other time was also around 1am, during winter, walking home from a friends house in Small Town, USA. It wasn't too cold to walk slowly and there was snow all over the ground and no clouds so I could see the stars.

      • Hanah_banana says:

        Most of my favourite moments involve it being either night time or dusk as well, it's so magical. And oh god walking in the snow with the stars overhead just sounds insanely beautiful, that sounds like a fabulous moment. And being in the rain at all is always the loveliest – we had an insane rainstorm a few weeks ago after days of heat, and I just stood outside and very melodramatically flung my arms up to the sky and just let the warm rain thunder down on me, and the light was just gorgeous and everything smelt like petrichor and I just felt so at one with the universe, like I was a part of everything and I although I was just a tiny little person in a tiny corner of the world, I could be anywhere and everything I wanted.

    • rumantic says:

      Avenue of Hope is amazing <3 <3 <3 (isn't it awesome when you come across someone randomly who loves one of your favourite songs? Especially when nobody else seems to have heard if it)

      • Hanah_banana says:

        AHHH YOU WIN ALL THE THINGS <3 Nobody I know has ever heard that song! And everyone who's never heard it and whom I have subsequently forced to listen to it has given me a weird look and told me it's massively boring and depressing. So this is a very, very awesome moment for me! <3 You are fabulous and you have excellent taste!

        • rumantic says:

          I Am Kloot are amazing, and everyone I've shown them to went "meh" as well. 🙁 What is your favourite album? Their back catalogue is so huge I never know where to start with it. One of my favourite songs by them (Fat Kids in Photographs – also depressing BTW) isn't on youtube at all but is on spotify. I think it was from the album which is just a load of B-sides and hidden tracks.

          Also – for anyone else reading who follows Mark Watches, check out the video to "Proof" – you might recognise someone in it ^_^

          • muselinotte says:

            Ooh, I need to get in on this conversation, because after seeing I Am Kloot twice (more or less by accident at festivals) and fricking LOVING their gigs, I've always been at a loss as to where I should begin to listen to them properly…
            So I would love a recommendation on where to begin 🙂

  3. cait0716 says:

    I found this chapter to be a bit cheesy. Maybe it's because I was raised with an atheistic world view and never had any sort of grand epiphany like this. I'm also perfectly happy living in a universe without purpose. The fact that matter is conserve is what makes me feel connected to the whole universe. I remember being pretty excited as a kid when I learned that we are still breathing the same air and drinking the same water as the dinosaurs.

    The title "there is now" got me thinking in a Doctor Who wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey way. That it was just a reference to Mary's epiphany felt like a bit of a letdown (to me)

    • Noybusiness says:

      I think it's about creating one's own purpose.

    • BradSmith5 says:

      Look, all this doesn't exactly fit my life philosophy either, but I am just so ready for anything to happen that I'll accept anything––no matter how cheesy. Seriously, Mary, either find your purpose or just end the book. Either figure this crap out or just set your spyglass down and mutter "There is no point: chaos reigns."

      Man, that would be an awesome ending. Then she'd fall into the grass, laughing, as the words "THE END" form in the stars. 😉

    • barnswallowkate says:

      I can definitely see the cheese. I imagine Mary all alone out there yelling "There is now!!" like the Double Rainbow Guy. (SO INTENSE! WHAT DOES IT MEAN??)

      • Haha. Yeah. If there had been anyone around, she would have seemed so very strange.

        She walks slowly out of her house, looks through an amber spyglass at nothing in particular, her tree comes crashing down, she runs toward it, upset. She then proceeds to stand there for a while before suddenly excalaiming: "Well there is now!" "THERE IS NOW!!!!"

  4. Marie the Bookwyrm says:

    I think what Father Gomez did was go in Mary's house looking for Lyra or Mary (who he thinks will lead him to Lyra). And he was puzzled because he didn't find anybody. It took me a couple of readings to catch it, but it states near the beginning of this chapter that Will and Lyra are sleeping under the tree by Mary's house. Apparently they're hidden from view and it doesn't occur to Father Gomez to look there. 🙂

  5. carma_bee says:

    Sorry to be a little off topic here Mark, but I just wanted to say that I loved your Tumblr Face Off from last night, it made me smile 🙂

  6. stellaaaaakris says:

    Oh my goodness, I'm finally back. Evacuation and power outages have forced me to catch up on everything late last night and I have yet to read all the comments. I'm sure I'll go back and respond to people even though the conversation will have moved on. Or I'll make random comments in future chapters that have nothing to do with the chapter content. Like this one!

    There's this website that randomly sorts people into a Panem district. I was placed into District 1, luxury goods. It's kinda funny since in a past comment, maybe in CF or MJ, I remarked that, based on my name, I most likely would have lived in District 1. It's sounds like a brand of champagne and it's a bit ridiculous. Good news: I would probably never have had to participate in a Hunger Games since there would be plenty of willing volunteers to take my place and all that training would mean I'm in extra good shape, much better than I'm in now. Bad news: After the revolution, Gale would definitely try to ensure I'm dead because of where I was born. (Yes, I'm still holding a grudge against Gale and I'm perfectly fine with that never changing.)

    • knut_knut says:


      Isn't that the official Hunger Games website (the one for the movie) that sorts people? I want to get myself sorted but I'm at work and I still don't have internet at home 🙁

      • stellaaaaakris says:

        Thank you! I love talking books and even when I have nothing to say, somebody else has a really good point to bring up, so I felt all disconnected from my daily book club. 🙁

        I think so. The article I read hadn't heard back from Lionsgate yet, and I really wanted to know so off I went. I didn't really like that I needed to connect through my facebook or non-existent twitter, but I was very curious so I allowed access and then quickly disabled it after being sorted.

        Being at work makes things so much harder, I need to sneak in my Mark Reads time, usually during my lunch break. I hope you get internet at home soon!

        • knut_knut says:

          my internet has returned!!
          <img src=""&gt;
          I'm so pathetic without it 🙁 On Monday I didn't know how to find out if the trains were running because I couldn't connect to the internet, my tv wasn't working, and my phone was being a butt. I was about to give up when I remembered THE RADIO! Father Gomez I am not.

          I was sorted into District 4! Good thing I like fish/seafood?

          • stellaaaaakris says:

            Hey, a fellow Career! High five! …I mean, what else am I supposed to do? At least you get to hang out with cool people like Mags and Finnick (ohmygod, my heart), while I have to hang around with Glimmer and Gloss. I don't even like shiny luxury items. I prefer cheap and useful.

            The real question is can you swim? Liking fish and seafood is a nice bonus.

    • monkeybutter says:

      Eep, hope you didn't get flooded or suffer much damage.

      I googled this panem sorting thing, signed up, and got District 6. Transportation. Now I know why their victors were morphling addicts. And, yeah, Gale was kind of a jerk. I don't blame you for holding a grudge. To try to bring this back on topic, he's sort of like Father Gomez in his fervor. A little?

      • knut_knut says:

        Poor Gale, all he was trying to do was free his people from a tyrannical government and he gets compared to Father Gomez 🙁 but really, he was a total ass. I kind of love Father Gomez though, the way I loved the golden monkey, but Gale I just thought was obnoxious. Father Gomez is so ridiculously evil! He just waltzed into the mulefa village like nobody’s business.

        • stellaaaaakris says:

          But what about the children?!? (hehe Anybody watch Greek?)

          I kinda like how he tried to waltz in all stealthy and invisible in the dark, but if any of the mulefa had been awake, they'd be all, "Dude, what are you doing? You're covered in golden sraf. We can see you." (Apparently this particular mulefa zalif would have been a surfer or somebody who regularly says "dude" – like me – if they had lived in our world. Cool, I accept that.) Fail, Father Gomez, fail.

          And this line of thought made me wonder if the mulefa young can see sraf. Anybody know?

        • @sab39 says:

          Honestly, one of my pet peeves with Mockingjay was the way it turned Gale into a cartoon. Peeta was such a well developed character even if I didn't always like him, Katniss too, and there were hints that Gale could have been a really interesting or at least fun character too if the scenes of sweet friend-bonding between him and Katniss hadn't kept being interspersed with O HAI I'M A MASS-MURDERING FUCKHEAD… or at least a mass-murdering fuckhead wannabe.

      • stellaaaaakris says:

        A little bit of flooding, a whole lot of trees that are much thinner than before. And a lot of no power. Parts of my town still haven't gotten it back, which is pretty unreasonable.

        And you're right! They're both willing to kill innocent children for what they believe to be the greater good. (Nicely done, bringing it back to HDM.) Gale, Father Gomez, I'm giving you serious side eye.

    • notemily says:

      I tried to get a district, but I keep getting a "the Capitol could not identify this citizen" error. Obviously that means I'm from DISTRICT THIRTEEN FUCK YEAH

    • muselinotte says:

      Urgh, I'm in District 1 aswell, this doesn't please me greatly…
      Now I need a fancy name…

  7. knut_knut says:

    so where does Dust go when it leaves? It just ceases to exist? WHY IS THIS THE ONLY THING I CAN FOCUS ON?

    • rumantic says:

      I would imagine that if it is going into the abyss, it's kind of like what happens to energy (light energy or sound or whatever) when it gets near a black hole. Energy can't be created or destroyed, but it can seep away slowly into something we don't know very much about D:

    • I think yeah. It ceases to exist.

      My own personal theory is that there are a crapton of worlds in this series. Not infinite because I don't like the confusion that brings for these events. (How can there be OTHER Lyras and Wills and Asriels and Authorities? No no no no. To weird.) But there's a crapton. One of those worlds is a world of nothingness. A lack of anything. (Which is of course impossible for the human brain to fully comprehend.) And that's what the knife cuts through to get to other worlds and that's what the abyss is. And that's where all the Dust is going.

  8. chrisjpardo says:

    Time for today's edition of…


    So this is a pretty short one, huh? Chapters are quickly running out and we're just given more bad news; all the Dust is disappearing! Father Gomez is here! Father Gomez is useless at hide and seek! I do wonder who exactly he was looking for, or was he just surprised that there was a human living amongst the mulefa?

    Mary's realisation about the windows left open from the subtle knife can't help but remind me of Iorek's warning that the knife had "intentions" too.

    The emphasis and meaning of the titlular phrase of "there is now" confuses me a little. Is this meant as in "there is only now" (in a no-time-like-the-present kind of way), or "now there is"? The first one is a bit more poetic, but the second one more likely from Mary's dialogue.

    Finally, I'm pretty new to this, I've only been commenting since I 'caught up' this week, but it's my second time through these books (albeit 6 years apart). This has probably already been covered, but I'm intrigued as to how many people are reading along for the first time?

    • t09yavors says:

      My brain while reading your post:

      "There's only now, theres only this. Forget regret or life is yours to miss…"

    • stellaaaaakris says:

      According to the audiobook, the emphasis is on the "is" so the second option would be the one Pullman was going for, I'm guessing, since he's still the narrator in the audiobook and probably could tell people if they were doing it completely wrong. Although I do think the first one sounds more poetic.

      • chrisjpardo says:

        Ah excellent, thank you! I always forget the audiobook is a useful tool for this kind of thing, as well as for all the names I'm sure I'd mispronounce.

    • BradSmith5 says:

      This is my initial read-through. There were some other first-timers, but I haven't heard from 'em in a while.

      • chrisjpardo says:

        Well I'm glad there are people getting to experience the series for the first time, and I hope most have stuck at it!

        I'll be keeping an eye out for your comments over the final few chapters. First time reactions are always the best!

  9. tigerpetals says:

    I don't remember being upset about purposelessness without God. Maybe it was because I had already read this trilogy as a Christian. I am awed by the universe, and even dead things have living things inside them. I don't know about meaning or purpose, but I think it's enough to treasure that your alive and other things exist and they all affect each other.

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